City holds golf links hostage, group says Dispute over who gets profits started feud.

September 30, 1991|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Evening Sun Staff

The non-profit group that manages Baltimore's municipal golf courses is accusing the city of holding it "hostage" by refusing to approve construction projects at the courses.

William L. Cook II, executive director of the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp., said he thinks the city's refusal to act is prompted by his organization's refusal to share its profits with the city.

Cook said the company is contacting golfers and posting a notice at city golf courses that says, "The City of Baltimore holds the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corporation hostage."

In the notice, the company's chairman, Henry H. Miller, accuses City Council President Mary Pat Clarke of purposely delaying the construction of a new clubhouse at the Clifton Park golf course. He also criticizes Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke for refusing to answer the group's request to build four holes of artificial turf for the handicapped.

The feud between the organization and the city began when Schmoke discovered the golf corporation made $800,000 after expenses last year but the company refused to share the profits with the financially strapped city.

The city actually owns the four municipal courses -- Carroll Park, Clifton Park, Forest Park, Mount Pleasant and Pine Ridge.

But in 1985, when the courses were losing money, then Mayor William Donald Schaefer leased them to the company for 15 years at no charge. In exchange, the corporation promised to make the courses self-supporting and pay for improvements from its own revenues.

The lease agreement does not require the corporation to return any of its revenues to the city. Schmoke has asked city lawyers to review the possibility of suing the golf corporation to get it to share the profits, but no such suit has yet been filed.

Although the golf corporation does not have to share its profits, ,, the city still must approve all expenditures for construction projects.

Cook noted that the city's Board of Estimates -- on which both Schmoke and Clarke sit -- delayed approval in May of a fire hydrant at Mount Pleasant golf course, even though the golf corporation would pay for it.

In August, the board deferred voting on a new clubhouse at Clifton Park, saying it wanted the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Department of Public Works to review the project first.

Schmoke could not be reached for comment about the corporation's accusations.

Clarke denied the Board of Estimates has delayed golf course construction projects as a form of retaliation. She said the board is simply evaluating the need for the construction projects, since they will be city assets once they are built.

"We are being careful about expenditures," she said.

Although the golf corporation would spend its own money for construction, she said, "This is the property of the citizens of Baltimore. It's not my property and it's not the [golf corporation's] property."

George Balog, the city's public works director and another member of the Board of Estimates, said the Clifton Park clubhouse approval was delayed so his department could consult with other city agencies.

Besides the projects pending before the board, the golf corporation wrote to Schmoke in August requesting permission to build a four-hole junior golf course with artificial grass for the children and the handicapped at Pine Ridge Golf Course, which is in Baltimore County.

L But the corporation has yet to hear from Schmoke, said Cook.

"I think it's a very good assumption the city is frustrated over their inability to take our funds," Cook said.

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